Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd’s (Walton Goggins) story lines continue to mirror each other as Justified delves into the complicated love lives of both men.
Let’s bitch it out…
‘The Hunt’ is a surprisingly intimate instalment of Justified. I half expected that following last episode‘s events we would spend this episode focusing on Avery Markham (Sam Elliot) as his plans to take over Harlan go pear shaped after losing his henchmen, but instead we get an intimate portrait of Raylan and Boyd’s love lives.
It’s a savvy move on the part of the writers because as we head into the final lap, Winona (Natalie Zea) and Ava (Joelle Carter) help to reorient our protagonist & antagonist’s priorities. Winona’s sudden appearance with baby Willa is accompanied by a key change in attitude from Raylan: he walks away from the manhunt for Ty Walker (Garret Dillahunt) in order to spend the night with them. Oh sure, it’s accompanied by news that not all is well with the baby (heart murmur and ear infection) and Winona rightfully chews him out in a moment of weakness about her struggle as a single parent, but when the time comes to part ways, there’s hope that things could finally be okay with them again. Raylan’s not completely reformed (he did take his daughter into the Marshal’s office), but Winona knows what she’s getting into and would rather have him around than not at all. That’s progress for both parties and offers a chance of a happy future.
Things are less sunny for Boyd and Ava, who spend a tense and emotional night together at his dad’s old cabin. There’s so much history between these two and the references to past battles (Ava’s history with Crowder men) and mistrust (references to Cousin Johnny’s betrayal) confirm that something has to break. Throughout all of S6, we’ve been aligned with Ava’s point of view and that doesn’t change here; we understand her deepening fear with each new suggestion by Boyd that they move further and further into isolated territory (first then cabin, then an early morning pig hunt in the woods).
There are two moments that resonate for me: the final chat in which Ava comes clean and when the action around drinking shots the night before.
- For the former, Ava is at her most reactionary. She understands that her back is up against the wall now that Boyd knows she ran to Limehouse and she confesses quickly. I’m not surprised that she justifies her decision to Boyd, although I don’t get the impression that he’s swayed by it at all. The moment he asks her to trust him and tell him “exactly” what she told Raylan is the clincher for me: Ava is in more danger than ever now.
- This is retroactively confirmed for me by Boyd’s actions earlier in the episode. He asks if he’s ever done anything to hurt her and Ava’s reply drives him to nearly choke her. It’s a frightening moment of sexual violence that connotes the power differential between them. The fact that his attack precedes sex is alarming, but telling. At this point Boyd already knows about Ava’s transgression, and she must suspect he knows, so she uses her body as leverage to diffuse the situation. When Boyd confronts her later in the woods, however, he’s solely interested in one thing: whether or not she slept with Raylan. This confirms to me that if anything violent happens between them, it won’t be because she’s betrayed him or he can’t trust her with his secrets. It will be because he is threatened by the possibility that she will betray him sexually with Raylan. I doubt that she has anything to fear from the gun he loads at episode’s end. She ought to be more worried about what the bruising on her neck infers: if Boyd kills her, it will be a crime of passion and one not likely committed with a gun.
- ‘The Hunt’ obviously has dual meanings: Boyd’s pig (and witch) hunt, as well as the manhunt for Ty Walker. The bearded military man spends the episode on the lam, digging a slug out of his shoulder in a public restroom, using scared frat boys as patsies to throw the Marshals off his scent and eventually killing two paramedics who make the mistake of trying to be heroes. It’s a bit of a surprise that he’s still on the run when the credits roll, though I don’t think he’ll get too far. The question is whether he tries to take vengeance on Avery and/or Seabass (Scott Grimes) for abandoning him.
- Avery and Art (Nick Searcy) engage in a battle of wits during their brief interview. I wasn’t entirely clear what the purpose of this is other than to restate Avery’s shady history with Katherine and her dead husband Grady. The only new piece of info is that Grady’s lawyer was also killed, which suggests that Avery wasn’t the snitch (as Art confirms: why kill the lawyer and Grady? That’s at cross-purposes).
- Tim (Jacob Pitts) and Rachel (Erica Tazel) continue to exist solely to inject sass and play the foil for Raylan. I guess at this point it’s not worthwhile complaining that they’ve never been developed into anything else. At least they’re quippy!
- Finally, kudos for the production team for the use of a real baby during most of Winona and Raylan’s scenes. The scene when Winona bitches him out while holding her squirming, screaming daughter was authentically difficult to watch. I almost wonder if we were even meant to hear the dialogue or if the intention was simply to demonstrate how difficult raising a child is on couples?
- Art (when Avery suggests he doesn’t remember Art): “Well, memory loss that’s a sure sign of growing old.”
- Tim (explaining why he’s not on the manhunt): “Oh I myself was given 24 hours to decompress. Look at you Norma Rae.”
- Raylan (after Rachel asks if he let Tim hold the baby): “No, because he is not a nurturing or caring human being. He is kind of an asshole.”
Your turn: were you happy to see Winona again? Do you think Boyd will kill Ava? Is Art up to something? How long before Walker is captured? Sound off below.
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX